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Cricket Australia expects Usman Khawaja to uphold ICC rules

“We support the right of our players to express personal opinions,” Australia cricket board says on shoe controversy

Australia’s Usman Khawaja walks after losing his wicket, lbw bowled by England’s Chris Woakes at The Oval, London, Britain on July 31, 2023. — Reuters

A day after Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja wore shoes bearing words in support of freedom and equality, Cricket Australia Wednesday said it supports the right of its players to “express personal opinions”, but also expects them to abide by rules set by the International Cricket Council.

The Australian cricket board’s statement comes a day after Khawaja, during his team’s main training session ahead of its Test series with Pakistan, wore shoes that carried an inscription of slogans “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal”.

According to Australian media reports, the Pakistan-born opener intended to wear the boots during the match, which starts at Perth Stadium on December 14 (Thursday).

Commenting on Khawaja’s show of solidarity, which is being linked to a show of solidarity for the Palestinians in Gaza, Australia’s cricket body, in a statement released today, said: “We support the right of our players to express personal opinions.”

However, it also added: “But the ICC has rules in place which prohibit the display of personal messages which we expect the players to uphold.”

Meanwhile, Australia captain Pat Cummins also assured during a presser that Khawaja will not wear the shoes featuring the inscription in the first Test against Pakistan.

Cummins, however, supported Khawaja’s right to voice his views through his act and also encouraged fellow teammates to have “passionate views” on various issues.

“Uzzie doesn’t want to make too big of a fuss, on his shoes he had ‘all lives are equal’, I think that’s not very divisive, I don’t think anyone can have too many complaints about that,” the Aussie skipper said. 

Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza has killed at least 18,205 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The ICC Code of Conduct forbids players from wearing, displaying or conveying messages through arm bands or other items on clothing or equipment without prior approval.

Messages related to political, religious or racial activities or causes are not allowed.

England batsman Moeen Ali, who like Khawaja is a Muslim with Pakistani heritage, was banned by the ICC in 2014 from wearing wristbands featuring the slogans “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.

The ICC did, however, allow players to “take the knee” before international matches in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in 2020 and 2021.

There was no immediate reply to a request for comment on the matter from the ICC.

Australia’s Sports Minister Anika Wells, however, gave Khawaja her full backing.

“I have always advocated for athletes having the right to a voice and to speak up on matters important to them,” she told local media.

“Usman Khawaja is a great athlete and a great Australian. He should have every right to speak up on matters that are important to him.

“He has done so in a peaceful and respectful way. He has done so as an individual and expressed an individual opinion that does not compromise the Australian cricket team’s obligations to the ICC.” 

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